The Baltimore Orioles will ask that players negotiating new contracts this winter agree to have drug-testing clauses included in the agreement, General Manager Hank Peters said yesterday.
"It is obvious that management people have deep concerns about the drug problems," Peters said. "We tried to get it worked out with the (Major League) Players Association to have testing included, but were unsuccessful. That was one reason the Joint Drug Agreement was canceled. Now, we feel we are free to explore provisions for voluntary testing of players if the players are willing to have it included in their contract."
The inclusion of a testing clause is negotiable, but once agreed to by the player, it would be mandatory, Peters said. Approximately 200 players will be negotiating contracts this winter and most, if not all, of the 26 teams are expected to seek testing clauses. The Dodgers reportedly have signed catcher Steve Yeager to a contract that includes a drug-testing clause, but Mark Belanger, assistant director of the players' union, said they have not received a copy of the contract.
Peters said that in four years of testing the Orioles' minor league players there has yet to be a player who denied a problem after he had tested positive. He also said he would not see the results of the tests, that the testing organization would maintain confidentiality.
"I can't say it's 100 percent, but I've found agreement with the concept," attorney Ron Shapiro told the Associated Press. Shapiro represents Ken Dixon, Storm Davis, Larry Sheets, Floyd Rayford, John Shelby and Mike Young, all of whom will be signing contracts this winter. In all, he represents 20 players on the Orioles' 40-man roster.
Shapiro said an informal poll of his clients shows support for drug testing. But "whether (putting) the clause (in a contract) is legal is another matter."
The union, which views the drug-testing issue as something that ought to be settled in collective bargaining, objects to the mandatory aspect of the potential agreements. Union officials also distrust the reliability of the tests and the organizations doing them, and doubt that clubs would not be told the results of tests. "Most of the facilities conducting tests have less than an 80 percent efficiency rate, and when they do test, the rate of false positives ranges from 3 to 15 percent," said Belanger. "I don't want anyone tested with 20 percent deficiency or that rate of false positive. I can guarantee you there will be an innocent person found guilty, if not three or five or 20. If he can assure you of 100 percent accuracy and efficiency, he's a liar."